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This Ramadan, please don’t sell Islam

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The Qur’an says: "It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but righteousness is to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Messengers, to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practise regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient in suffering and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing." (2:177)

Khalid Sabir, editor of News from India, was in a discussion with the MG editor. Mr Sabir’s concluding remarks were: “a Muslim doesn’t even know how many times he gets sold in a day”. But the bitter truth is, most of the times such a barter is a conscious decision. A worldly-wise one. A short-sighted one. One which could easily be avoided if he/she knew how to control inner desires — jihad an-nafs — striving to improve and correct the self. This is the greater jihad whose ideal aim is to achieve good and overcome evil — the jihad we seldom practice or talk about.

Ramadan is just around the corner. Nice emails and SMS’s are being forwarded to remind friends about the blessings Ramadan holds in itself. Everyone seems to be excited. The loudspeakers of our local masjids have been tested. Vendors in Muslim localities have started stocking dates and other favorite foods. And may be I was not alone when I thought it would be good to get a haircut.

This haircut session is the reason why I am writing this. Usually, the discussions going on in the barber’s shop are quite interesting. More so, if it is in a Muslim ghetto. Sports, politics, religion, local, national, international, you find experts on anything and everything — just at the local barber’s.

Well, this time it was three friends discussing an “offer” to promote an aspiring political candidate in Bulandshahr, a city in western Uttar Pradesh. Oh, I forgot to mention, that barber’s shop is in Delhi’s Dilli Pachchees — where a sizeable part of Delhi’s Muslims lives.

This candidate is new to Bulandshahr, a city notorious for many reasons. He wants to get noticed. He wants to make inroads into the Muslim population of his constituency. The solution? Oh come on, even a kid can guess, lunch or dinner with a non-vegetarian menu in a field/park/marriage hall near/in a Muslim locality. That’s how simple it is.

But hold on, to make all this extremely effective, a sure hit -- why not throw an “iftar party” (meal to break the fast)? This was the plan of the three friends in Delhi to help their non-Muslim political candidate win the hearts of the local Muslim populace. How does that aspiring politician know these friends — well, through another common friend. And why will someone take all the pain to go from Delhi to Bulandshahr (75 km away) and do all this “event management”? Certainly, there has to be some “cash inflow”. This was what one of these friends said at least 20 times: “Tell him [the aspiring politician], he will get our services for a price.”

This is how Naseer, Naseem and Salaam were willing to “sell” themselves and their religion. Isn’t all this plain hypocrisy? Dr Kazim has dealt with the subject of hypocrisy excellently in his just published book Scientific Commentary of Suratul Faatehah (pp 307-320). He writes, “Hypocrisy is the pretence or simulation of virtue, moral or religious beliefs, the value of which has nothing to do with one’s actions or what one expresses. His opinions, statements or actions contradict his beliefs. Although classified as a major sin, hypocrisy is widely spread among mankind. Many priests and clerics of all denominations have been guilty of sexual misconduct, money laundering, commercial fraud, embezzlement, misuse of public funds, to name a few."

Looking at the past trends, this Ramadan too, each fasting day, we will have “hypocrites” organizing and hosting “iftar parties”. Generally these parties are organized mainly for worldly gains. One should also ponder how the Holy Qur’an describes this kind of short-sighted gains: "These are they who have bartered Guidance for error: But their traffic is profitless, and they have lost true direction" (2:16). I would refrain from writing about how “Muslims” in these parties behave on seeing free food. In one such instance, a couple of years back MG editor Dr Khan, Mr AU Asif and I had to leave the place and go to a nearby restaurant to break our fast.

Selfless people have much better ways of spending their wealth than splurge on iftar parties — a page 3 event for the press. When Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was our President he didn’t allow the annual iftar parties to take place at Rashtrapati Bhawan. He arranged for an amount equal to the previous year’s iftar party expenses to be donated to orphans in Bachchon Ka and Bachchion ka Ghar (boys and girls orphanages) in old Delhi’s Daryaganj area. Dr Kalam donated this amount for charity all the five years of his term as president.

Dr Kazim has classified hypocrisy as Commercial, Media, Social, Religious, Intellectual, Cultural and Political. If we shun all kinds of hypocrisies we Muslims will cease to be a commodity to be sold for petty considerations. Will we shun the annual hypocrite drama by refusing to attend this year’s gala iftar parties? Ramadan is the month of reflection on the inner self and should serve as a means to cleanse all the ills of our system. Will this Ramadan make my wish come true?

The author is editor of MG online (milligazette.com)
As appeared in 16-31 August 2010 print issue of The Milli Gazette

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